Embarking on the Congo River journey is not for the faint-hearted. It requires an adventurous spirit, an open mind, and a willingness to embrace the unknown. Join us on this extraordinary expedition, as we traverse the diverse landscapes of the Democratic Republic of Congo, from the bustling capital city to remote regions rarely touched by modern civilization.
From Kinshasa to Mbandaka - Mbandaka to Kisangani - Kisangani to Isiro - Isiro to Garamba - Garamba to Kampala
The Odyssey Begins
Kinshasa to Mbandaka:
Our first leg of the journey takes us from Kinshasa to Mbandaka, a city nestled along the vast Congo River. Bid farewell to the comforts of modern transportation as we embrace the authentic experience of traveling by boat. Kinshasa to Mbandaka is the only segment of the trip where we move by the Congo River using a local boat, one of the boats is called "Floating Village" boat, which is a cargo boat pushing 4 to 5 barges all connected by metallic ropes, the downside to it, is that it moves slowly spending two to three weeks between Kinshasa and Mbandanka.
The other boat is called "Baleinière" the Congolese version of a smoky boat. These wooden handcrafted boats with roaring, makeshift engines provide us with an even more authentic experience of Congolese river life. Ut can be scary because of the noise from the engine but also faster than the Floating Village boat.
An open mind and a sense of adventure are your passports as you adjust to the life on this local boat. On this boat, you will share meals, stories, and laughter with locals. Trust me, you don’t want to be singled out as the odd one out. Adaptability is important but that doesn’t mean you change who you are but rather be respectful and mindful of the locals.
I should also remind you that while on this journey a lot of things can go astray requiring a change of plans, for example, we may experience engine troubles on the boat and this may require us to delay our journey or switch to alternative modes of transport like canoes or other vessels. So please keep your mind open to any non-occassional occurrencies.
It’s also important to note that accommodation options on this journey are scarce, but fear not because the beauty of this expedition lies in embracing the wild. At some point during the trip, you will be required to pitch a tent on the banks of the river or even on a local boat, surrounded by the symphony of nature. Life on the boat is nothing close to the life you are used to and that is why open mindedness is very crucial on this trip. You will live, sleep and eat like the locals.
Mbandaka to Kisangani:
You will experience the ultimate adrenaline rush as you traverse the untamed depths of the dark and mysterious forest. Forget about conventional roads as we navigate our way on the back of agile motorcycles, following ancient footpaths that connect remote villages and enthralling rivers.
Prepare to be confronted with thrilling challenges along the way as you bravely maneuver around treacherous floods and defying nature's obstacles such as fallen trees blocking our path. As we venture deeper into the forest, the very essence of wildness will surround you, with branches and palm trees playfully brushing against your skin, as if to remind you of the untamed energy that thrives here.
We will then cross Lomami, Lindi, and Congo rivers on traditional canoes. Throughout this incredible journey, you will have the privilege of immersing yourself in the rich cultures and traditions of local sects and tribes, adding a sense of enchantment to your experience.
Upon reaching Kisangani, we can rejuvenate and spend a few days of basic comfort at a hotel.
Kisangani to Isiro:
By this stage of the trip, you now have idea of what is going on and what possibly lies ahead. Leaving Kisangani to Isiro takes you deeper into remote territories.
Here, you will experience the extraordinary by either hopping on a rugged motobike or venturing aboard a public bus, if luck is on our side.
The road to Isiro is very muddy with a lot of checkpoints along the way that will delay us. But, this adds to the allure of the expedition. Each checkpoint offers a chance to interact with locals, who add a vibrant and fascinating touch to our adventure.
If fortune smiles upon us, we might even catch a ride on a public bus. Which is a bit comfortable compared to the motorbike. With each passing kilometer, you can revel in the anticipation of exploring the unknown, while relishing the astonishing landscapes that unfold before your eyes.
Along the journey, we will pass by Wamba - the village of Saint Annuarite Nengapeta. This village holds a special place in Congo's cultural tapestry, brimming with stories, traditions, and heritage. It promises to be a captivating stop and a glimpse into the rich history of the region.
Isiro to Garamba:
The journey from Isiro to Garamba is by Jeep, navigating rugged terrains and dense forests to remote African National Park boasting remarkable wildlife and also UNESCO Heritage, the former strongholds of the infamous Joseph Kony.
Joseph Kony is a Ugandan guerrilla group leader and the head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which was formed in the 1980s. The LRA is a rebel group that operated primarily in Northern Uganda and parts of neighboring countries, including South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic.
It is notorious for its use of child soldiers and committing numerous human rights abuses, including abductions, killings, and sexual slavery. Kony gained international attention in 2012 when the campaign "Kony 2012" was launched by the organization Invisible Children, aiming to raise awareness about his crimes and bring him to justice. However, Kony remains at large and the LRA's activities have significantly decreased in recent years.
Guided by expert local drivers and knowledgeable guides, you'll delve deep into the secrets of Garamba, unveiling its hidden treasures. Immerse yourself in the stories handed down through generations, listen to the pulse of the wilderness as you embark on game drives, and experience the magic of camping under the star-studded African sky.
Garamba to Kampala:
Congratulations! You've almost reached the final stretch of this incredible adventure! As we approach the last leg of the journey, we understand that you may be feeling a little worn out and longing for the comforts of modernity. But we’ve got to push on!
On this journey, we again travel the local way, hopping on a public local bus. This is not your typical mode of transportation; it's a gateway to discovering the true essence of Congo's remote areas. These buses, filled with smiling faces and lively conversations, offer an opportunity to delve into the vibrant Congolese culture, heartfelt music and warm hospitality.
The journey may be long, but fear not! This is an adventure in itself, a chance to witness the captivating beauty of the Congolese countryside and catch stunning glimpses of elusive wildlife along the way.
Pragmatic Precautions: Preparing for the Journey Ahead
With such an adventurous trip, preparing yourself mentally and physically for long stretches without modern amenities, embracing the simplicity and tranquility of nature is very critical. It is advisable to pack essentials such as anti-malaria pills, repellants, cold and pain relievers, sturdy footwear and lightweight clothing.
Adapting to the Unexpected: Delays, Diversions, and Deviations
Travelling through regions, often untouched by conventional tourism, means we might need to make major changes to our program. Infrastructure delays, unexpected weather conditions, political safety regulations, and even the occasional checkpoint delays or bribes, can all challenge our plans. Flexibility and patience are key as we navigate through these challenges.
Amidst all these obstacles lies a treasure trove of amazing adventures and extraordinary encounters that you will love. From wildlife sightings to the rich cultural tapestry of the region and heartwarming hospitable locals.
In the end, was it all worth it?
Did the challenges, unpredictable twists, and extraordinary experiences of the Congo River trip prove to be a rewarding and unforgettable adventure? Fnd out.
This trip is limited to four participants per trip and the second leg is happening in February 2025. Dare to secure your spot as soon as possible. Contact: Kumbukumbutours@gmail.com